Friday, May 23, 2008
This weekend, Mrs. Van Horn's folks are visiting with us and helping out with some of the preparations for our moves to the Land of the Puritans.
As many of you know, she's getting ready to start her residency, which is the next stage of her medical career. The assignment to Boston was random within the set of medical schools that interviewed her. She starts on July 1, so we're moving her up there in mid-June. I move up there once I find a job up there and tie up some loose ends down here.
Perhaps the most striking thing about our move so far has been something I've alluded to before: the cost of living difference between Houston and Boston. As I noted earlier, "[If] the median cost of living in the United States [is] 100, it is 83 in Houston and 126 in Boston." That's somewhat abstract. Here's a concrete example: My wife is temporarily renting a studio apartment smaller than our bedroom for about $400 a month more than the three-bedroom house we presently call home. (Gulp!)
Part of this reflects location as she does need to be relatively close to her hospital, but not much. Our old commute was only ten to fifteen minutes in Houston. By car, not public transit, and without much walking.
Depending on what I end up doing, we could end up renting a two-bedroom apartment or buying a house a little farther out, but even if we swing the latter, we will still have roughly a year of not having room for our things. (I see the job hunt as taking months, and I don't want to buy anywhere until I've been there awhile.) We will have to get rid of some of our things and store others.
We're both feeling a little sentimental. But at the same time she's excited about finally moving forward with her medical career, I face massive uncertainty. I want to keep writing, and think I finally know how to move beyond blogging. But writing at that level takes time.
And that is the main thing I am worried about in this move. The higher cost of living is partially compensated by higher pay -- if I leave academia, which remains my current plan. But it is only partially compensated with higher pay, and moving away from the center of town could cost me in terms of (commuting) time. Beyond that, I don't really feel free to discuss my possible career moves any further here....
Instead, I'll move back to what originally got me to this post, the huge "spring cleaning" type of opportunity this represents. We're pack rats (and ended up with things from her family after Katrina hit), but even at our most sentimental, we both see this as a chance to drop down to a more sane level of material accumulation. After this weekend, we should have a much better idea of what we'll move, what we'll get rid of, and what we'll store.
If it were all up to me, we'd get down to a two-bedroom apartment level pretty easily, but some of the Katrina stuff has real significance to my wife. We have a baby grand piano among other things. I want to sell it, but I may have to settle for storage on that one. Whatever the outcome, as I see it, there will be that much less uncertainty after this weekend, and that will be my big payoff.
The randomness of the move, and learning about it when I did have left me flat-footed and facing a huge blob of uncertainty about many aspects of my future life. And these ramblings have helped me identify the uncertainty as what I really hate about this move.
The first step of knowing how to deal with a problem is always defining parameters. Sometimes, you find that you have a smaller problem than you thought, and sometimes you don't. But you always end up with a better idea of what to do. And that, gentle reader, is what I am really looking forward to this weekend.
And it will be my strategy beyond that. Thank you for your indulgence.
Even though it doesn't really fit in with the rest of what has turned out to be a rumination about uncertainty, I'll end with a top ten list, which I'd promised myself I'd do, and which is what I'd intended to do here in the first place.
Although uncertainty is the worst of the move, I regard Houston as my second home town, and I am really going to miss it. But I won't miss all of it! In the vein of easing myself out of here, I will compose a list of ten things -- in no particular order -- I will miss about Houston which I shall balance with things I either won't miss, or will get to enjoy instead in Boston.
I'll miss ...
- ... grilling in my back yard, but I won't miss mowing it.
- ... good Mexican food and especially Ninfa's, but I'll get to enjoy some really good seafood.
- ... the freedom of driving my own car most of the time, but I do like to walk, and (Wow!) perhaps Boston really is cheaper in a category!
- ... the flexibility of the schedule of my old job, but I will not miss its unpredictability.
- ... the independent sense of life of Texans and the dynamism of Houston, but I'll get to drink in lots of American history. (My thanks to the correspondent who reminded me of this.)
- ... the lack of pervasive influence of leftists in Texas, but I'll enjoy the fact that Boston offers more opportunities to participate in intellectual pursuits.
- ... my friends in Houston, but I'll get to make new ones in Boston and ... oh yeah, about half of my old friends in Houston have already moved up there!
- ... the fact that I basically get to skip winter every year, but I won't miss the high humidity at all.
- ... the subtropical springtime, which teems with life, but I'll enjoy seeing what the season known as "fall" that I keep hearing about looks like.
- ... the ability to travel cheaply and easily to visit relatives in Mississippi and Louisiana, but now, they all want to see Boston, so maybe I won't have to travel so much! And we're closer to some of my wife's relatives now.